Former chiropractor Malcolm Hooper, 61, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy provider Oxymed Pty Ltd have been fined following the death of a customer in 2016. They were each convicted of three work safety-related charges, all of failing to ensure a workplace is safe and without risks to health. Hooper was fined $176,750, while the company was fined $550,000. Oxymed was trading as HyperMed at its South Yarra premises in April 2016 when a long-term client with multiple sclerosis and a history of life-threatening seizures came in for treatment. He was later found unconscious in a single-person hyperbaric chamber, taken to hospital, and placed on life support, but died five days later.
The County Court heard that both the company and Hooper had an inadequate system in place for assessing the risks oxygen therapy could pose to clients, and an inadequate system too for developing plans to eliminate or reduce those risks. In her judgment, County Court judge Amanda Fox said HyperMed wasn’t a hospital nor a medical practice and had been described as an “alternative health facility”. Hooper had already been deregistered in 2013 by the national board for chiropractors for misleading and deceptive advertising about the benefits of hyperbaric treatment.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves administering pure oxygen in a pressurised environment, with the heightened air pressure allowing a patients’ lungs to gather much more oxygen than would be possible under normal conditions. The therapy is not based on strong data. A systematic review failed to find good evidence for hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a treatment of multiple sclerosis:
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, inflammatory, and degenerative neurological illness with no cure. It has been suggested that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO(2)T) may slow or reverse the progress of the disease. This article summarizes the clinical evidence for the use of HBO(2)T in the treatment of MS. We conducted a literature review focused on the interaction of hyperbaric oxygenation and MS. In particular, we appraised the clinical data regarding treatment and performed a meta-analysis of the randomized evidence using the methodology of the Cochrane Collaboration. We found 12 randomized studies in the area, all of which were performed between 1983 and 1987. A meta-analysis of this evidence suggests there is no clinically significant benefit from the administration of HBO(2)T. The great majority of randomized trials investigated a course of 20 treatments at pressures between 1.75ATA and 2.5ATA daily for 60-120 min over 4 weeks against a placebo regimen. None have tested the efficacy of HBO(2)T against alternative current best practice. No plausible benefit of HBO(2)T on the clinical course of MS was identified in this review. It remains possible that HBO(2)T is effective in a subgroup of individuals not clearly identified in the trials to date, but any benefit is unlikely to be of great clinical significance. There is some case for further human trials in selected subgroups and for prolonged courses of HBO(2)T at modest pressures, but the case is not strong. At this time, the routine treatment of MS with HBO(2)T is not recommended.
The case reminds me of that of John Lawler. Mr. Lawlwer’s chiropractor also used a therapy that was not indicated, broke his neck (to put it crudely), and subsequently proved herself more than inept in saving his life. It suggests to me that some chiros may not be trained adequately to deal with emergencies. If that is true, they should perhaps focus less on practice-building courses and more on first aid instructions.